tv [untitled] March 3, 2012 10:30am-11:00am EST
the highest moral and ethical standards and be an example to our children and young people in this wi country? ask yourself that question, please. shouldn't his life make him a role model for your future children? shouldn't anyone you elect to this office always keep his promises? >> cspan.org/the contenders. coming up next, from the american veterans center annual conference, medal of honor recipients from world war ii, vietnam, and afghanistan reflect on their experiences and discuss what serving in the military means to them. this is about 45 minutes. i would like to start with a couple of questions, then open it up to everybody else to come in with things you may like to ask these men. the first one i want to bring out is during the action, if you read their stories, you would see during the action for which they received the medal of
honor, it is like chaos. they're under attack, their lives are on the line, things going off all around. some people are wounded. there may even be someone killed in that action that they're concerned about or trying to bring to safety, and there's a lot of things going on that you say how do you cope with all that. and what's going through your mind. i would like to start by just asking if they can recall back to the time when this action was going on for which they received the medal of honor, what was going through your mind and what were you thinking about in terms of how you're going to deal with this. how are you going to deal with this and make some sort of difference. i'll start with bob maxwell. he has a unique story. bob? >> actually, i wasn't thinking.
imagine three seconds, what can you do in three seconds. the enemy hurls a grenade at you. has six or seven seconds to go off from the time it leaves their hand. as a sails through the air, it is eating up two to three seconds and lands somewhere in your feet in the middle of the night. how much time can you do any thinking in two seconds? the only thing i thought about initially was trying to find it and throw it back. i realized this was impossible because there wasn't enough time to really do that. it would have gone off. if it had been in my hand in the air, act of throwing it back, i might have gotten three or four of my buddies killed as well as myself. not much thought goes into it. you sort of act instantaneously,
and unconsciously i suppose. whatever needs to be done, drop in place, that's it. >> thanks. brian? >> well, i find it hard to say i was thinking. that implies that you're anticipating something in the future. i was reacting to what was going on around me. most overwhelming threat was we would be penetrated and be broken down where we would have to fight individually. the biggest challenge that i had and captain of the artillery battery that was there was to keep what we had left working
together, keeping it coordinated, and we realized that we had to burn the powder. otherwise, every round that he had on the fire base was going to go back to friendly positions. and burn as much as you can. we certainly weren't going to be able to burn all of it, some way disable four artillery troops, one of five howitzers. if we didn't, everyone else was going to pay for it. basically things happen, you respond to them, things happen, you respond to them. now, 3:30, 4:00 in the afternoon, i don't know when, there was a lull.
and that's not a good sign when you have been under fire all day. there was one helicopter report, with the lull, they were resupplying, getting ready for a final attack, waiting for the final groups to come up, and that was when we decided time to go. hopefully our side had had enough time to regain their composure and find an extraction point. the lieutenant, he got the patrol to take them out. what i needed to do was block them, blocking fire, and the only target i could call in that fast was my own location. logical solution.
again, not a whole lot of thought went into it. made the call, kept asking when is it going to get here. finally they said get ready to leave, and i left, and i don't think i heard them say shot, but it was on the way. maybe ten kilometers out. not a very long time of flight. it was very much time to leave. given the size of the round, i realized that i wasn't going to get to the next safest place if i stayed on the trail and that's when i zigged and got myself separated, and the rest is just history. >> thank you, brian. leroy? >> almost the same answer for myself, not a lot of thought went into it.
immediately i knew i had been shot in my thigh. i didn't know the round had gone through both of my thighs. i didn't think about the gunshot wound, i thought the bullet was lodged in there. i thought about when i was leaving the younger troop behind cover, i thought about leading, leading the troops. many times we hear our leaders on our radios, he may not be there right next to us, but he's leading us from afar. i figured if i am able to talk to him, guide him, make those decisions for them, that was the best thing i could do. when i reached over and grabbed the grenade, it was -- i think it was all the training and a few of the combat deployments i had already been on, were engrained in my mind, neutralize the threat and you
protect the force. and when i saw that grenade, that's exactly what i was thinking about. i know everyone in the military, especially the 11 bravos and the airborne, no one likes to really say the word, but i think more than courage it was love for another service member that drove the actions that day, and the actions every day is that they love -- the love that each service member has for each other and for the nation and their freedoms is i think what drives it, not so much courage. that's more of a reaction to how you feel about one another when on the ground. >> thanks, leroy. one of the reasons we wanted each one to give their perspective is if you go from the left or my left, your right, 30 years, 60 years, 90 years oversimplified, had the same kind of reaction, whether one second, two seconds or several or you're in a little longer
firefight of whatever kind, the two attributes i would say came out of that were they had the courage to do the right thing, what needed to be done, and they were thinking of someone else other than themselves, despite the fact they may have been wounded or in some dire situation where their life was on the line, they were thinking of others. that's true with every medal of honor recipient i've met, true of those that received the medal posthumously, they all had the same things in mind. the next question i would like to ask, maybe one more then open it up for questions, is every one of us in a situation that, some kind of dire situation we're involved in probably had experienced some kind of fear or trepidation about what we were involved in. there's probably no more
significant actions than what these gentlemen were involved in or their comrades, so i'd like to ask them how or if they even had time to think about being afraid or experiencing fear, how it may have effected them and their situation. why don't i start with brian, then go to leroy, then bob. >> i was afraid from the time we stepped foot in the country. so was everyone else. then of course you realize that the farther out you went, the better the reason to be afraid. then you realize you have to use
that emotion, sharpen your senses to see a little more clearly. hearing becomes sharper, hypersensitive. pay attention to the hair on the back of your neck. it doesn't stick out all the time. when it does, something is about to happen. and fundamentally as an officer, you have to be able to talk with your troops about the same emotional nuances they're going through. opportunity to emphasize it's us, not an i. we get out of this if we all work together. i need you to keep moving. little things. the reason that i or my nco is pushing you or kicking you in
the butt as we like to say, paralysis is the most detrimental response you can have to fear. more you can move, more you can mitigate it, and use it to your advantage. of course, afterwards my guess is the enemy was just as afraid as we were. that's something unique. >> leroy, anything you want to add? >> i'd say that's a good topic, fear. i could talk forever, but i'm going to keep it short. i remember my first deployment, probably the best situation of fear was being trained, a lot of soldiers had trained to go to combat. when we got that call to go, everyone was excited. it is kind of like you're practicing, practicing, never go
to the big game. when you're on that plane headed overseas, it's dark, only little red lights inside the airplane, you're sitting across from each other, and you're looking at the faces of all these other soldiers across from you. all of them are like nothing is bothering them. you can look into their eyes, see a little of that fear you have in yourself, and the knots in your stomach. it takes you out of the comfortable, what is known. and fear is a good thing, i think. it keeps you on the edge when you're overseas, constantly aware. it's where you get that comfort level, that's when you almost become complacent. you get too comfortable, you don't realize what's going on around you. i think fear is a good thing to have because you never know what to expect.
a lot of service members, we go out there, we all think we're invincible. i joke with a lot of my buddies, i say you know what, it's that love exactly that helps you face that fear, and unless that grenade was made of kryptonite, i am no superman myself, but it's a -- fear is definitely in every one of us. i still fear -- i know i felt the fear of leaving my wife and four kids at home for my deployments, thinking if i may not see them again, thinking about the fears they would have. there's something that drives you past that fear, knowing that the goals, the means are justified.
it's hard to say that you have that comfort level where you drive down the highway without fear really and regards, a lot of people you're more likely to die on a car accident on a highway than in combat. if you look at the numbers we're getting nowadays, you don't ever see reports of how many people died in car accidents in a month compared to how many soldiers died in a combat zone in a month. numbers i'm sure would just blow your mind. fear is definitely a good thing to have in your life. >> thank you. anything you want to add, bob? >> fear is i think a god given factor to help you to preserve your life. fear causes you to take evasive action or protective action, whatever is necessary.
another way fear -- well, it is kind of like the pilot of an airliner. eight hours of boredom or whatever it is flying across the u.s., then about one minute of sheer terror when he tries to land the thing. but i don't know that i felt so much fear when we were returning the fire from the german platoon that was attacking us because we were concentrating on firing at muzzle flashes as we saw them in the middle of the night, and of course, we had .45 caliber pistols, which is a really fierce weapon, right? but anyway, at the moment the
grenade fell, then i was trying to think of what to do, throw it back. and of course the thoughts of what can you do to save yourself and the guys around you is the thing that takes uppermost in your mind overcoming fear. and didn't have any thoughts of fear at that moment. like other times when i have been straight by a spit fire, that was fun. i come over the hill hoping to find the battalion i was supposed to lay a wire to, and i meet with a german machine gun. that was also quite a hair raising experience. but those are things that help keep you alive.
but in those two seconds that night, there wasn't anything that i could do to keep myself alive. and i don't know if i had any concern about whether i lived or not, but that was it. >> great. thank you. i'm going to stop at this point. i have one more i think you'll all be interested in, but i'll wait until the end. let me open it up to questions. any of you? please? yes, sir, speak up. >> i am with the rotc. how was your life affected after the loss of his limb. >> the question, how was your life affected after the loss of his limb. his right hand. >> interesting, when i lost a limb, i didn't think about it.
well, i did, i knew immediately one of the thoughts went through my head, you're going to have a hook the rest of your life. and i actually got a hook as well. worked out great for halloween. i was a pirate. [ laughter ] down side, i had a buddy with a hook, fell and poked himself in the arm pretty good. but they're doing a great job in the medical innovations of technology, it has been phenomenal. when i got this hand, and all the amputees now are offered the same prosthetics, i said you know, that's okay. that's almost like a real hand. i can do just about whatever i want with that, and the hand comes off, has multiple attachments. i have a full set of cutlery, knives for the kitchen. golf attachment, which i never played golf before, but i've
picked it up, and try to get out there to the american league golf course with the veterans, and i love it. so it's opened new doors for me as well. as far as getting around the house, you can ask my wife, i don't really like to ask for help, and it's made me independent, so same thing with the legs. a lot of soldiers losing limbs. they're able to do just about everything. buddies of mine lost legs, still serving in the police department, and all the guys in his academy. doesn't really hold you back from doing what you want in life, and the process works well with you, help you find whatever you can. sorry, i don't want to go too long, one of the great guys that i golf with out in washington state, he had lost both legs above the knee to bouncing betty, and his attitude was
phenomenal. off the get go. i knew i liked the guy. jim martinson, sure he won't mind if i use his name, he won the boston wheelchair race, golfs, avid golfer. i called him once, he was in alaska, jumping out of helicopters downhill skiing. i was like at his age, that's awesome. i love seeing the resiliency. so for me it is easy to adapt. i don't know how many of you watch "dancing with the stars," but there's a gentleman on there, jr martinez that's a burn victim from combat. he was dancing on there. him being out there and it was almost like when i look at myself, me being out there with amputation is bringing awareness to the rest of the country, and also giving confidence to those who aren't in the media, other
burn patients to come out more. a lot of the other amputees to come out more. it's been an adjustment. there's not much i can't do that i did before. all been positive. >> leroy, before you finish, why don't i -- perhaps some people here aren't familiar with the names you wear on your right arm. >> yes. >> on my prosthetic, we have a memorial at our battalion where we keep the names of fallen soldiers that died in combat, paid the ultimate sacrifice. my way to have a living memorial, always keep them with me is i made a plaque, had it mounted on my arm. it's got ten rangers on there right now from the global war on terrorism in iraq and ghanistan. i figured i had the real estate,
so i went back to panama and grenada on there as well. unfortunately, i haven't been home too much, but in the last three weeks, i've got about four other names to add to this. it helps me recognize there's ongoing conflict there, and that there are men and women still sacrificing every day that we're over here enjoying. >> thank you. i would like to expand on that a bit, move to brian and bob. expand the scope of your question, which is very good, the one i was going to end on, and ask, i'll make a comment, then ask the question. these gentlemen who have received our nation's highest honor recognizing what they did to a man will tell you this is much bigger than them alone, that other people, that they represent others that didn't come home, who weren't
recognized, and essentially it changes their life. i would like to ask, i'll start with bob, then brian. leroy, you can add to that. you have been going through it more recently. how has receiving the medal of honor affected your life? bob? >> well, at first i came home, took a few months to get healed up. about the time i was getting out of the hospital in colorado, then i received the medal. from that point on it just seemed to be part of my life, but didn't affect it any. i didn't participate in anything that medal of honor recipients would normally participate in. went about getting an education,
getting married, and '51, then following that we had four great girls in our family. these things were more important to me than having the medal. but in 1956, six of us medal of honor recipients were invited to as a matter of fact we were told to go to france to dedicate cemeteries. there were a couple of air force people with us. and of course, when that hit the papers, then people were aware then that i had the medal, and i was asked to go here and go there, speak here, speak there. and of course, naturally began
going to the society meetings and i did make use of the opportunity to help inaugurate every president since eisenhower, except president kennedy. but it has been a great life. as medal of honor recipients, we represent all of you in things that are honorable, honest, and courageous. we represent those who were with us at the time that we -- that our action took place. we represent others that have given their lives. but above all, i think we represent america and all that
is good about america. stop and think a minute, what other country will send soldiers anywhere in the world to establish freedom for other people. of course, the medal of honor is one of the greatest symbols of freedom that there is. >> brian? [ applause ] >> one of the great difficulties in asking that question is that you don't get to live two different lives, one with and one without. there was no way that i could escape the award. i was in graduate school. my dean was a public health service admiral, president of the university i was attending had been an assistant secretary in the state department during
the conflict, probably had read some things on the action when i was over there. it's pushed me into a public role that i don't particularly care for. i would say i was interviewed as several other people, but i didn't receive a job offer inside the beltway based on the decoration. they were looking for people with graduate degrees in the va. they wanted people in their management pools that had been there, done that, wanting to take care of other veterans. certainly one of the things i
learned in this town, number one, veterans groups are the epitome of the iron triangle, if you ever study political science, they are both standard for special interests. nobody messes with us particularly. that's a crude way to say something that's very positive. i'm on the inside of that bubble, but every person that's put on the uniform has agreed to make that sacrifice. then when they step over, it's also common ground at every change of administration. if there's one thing the legislative process needs, it is the common ground. it's